Eyes: blue, brown, grey. From up close they shine, repeatedly. Where eyes shine, there’s life. In the midst of despair, they are proof that nothing is lost yest, even when all seems lost. In the remarkable directorial debut of fashion designer Tom Ford, based on Christopher Isherwood’s celebrated novel, English professor George Falconer (stunningly subtle in his pain and his refusal to give in to his will to live: Colin Firth) mourns the death of his lover, a pain made even more unbearable by a society that does not allow the kind of love they shared. A man intent on ending his life, a man who, in hin despair is desired, loved, admired. By his oldest friend Charly who he once had a brief affair with (a desparate, wild, longing: Julianne Moore), by Kenny, a student who could be accused of stalking him (pubescent in both his earnestness and lust for life: Nicholas Hoult), by a young Spanish stranger he meets outside a supermarket. On this day which should be the day he dies, life keeps breaking in.
Tom Ford, the designer, uses colour to characterize this battle between life and death. At the start, when Falconer embarks on what is to be his last day, all is pale, a cold world. His memories of happy days are drenched in bright, warm colour, colour that keeps entering when life reaffirms itself. This is not done clumsily at all: Sometimes colour comes in slowly, slowly creeping into the chilliness of despair, other times it comes in a flash, when some agent of life bursts in.
Not only in colour, the film is a feast of style. A rhythmic masterpiece, it slows down and speeds up, it stops and starts, goes in to slow motion, disintegrates into fragments of time. Editing and cinematography, together with a never imposing score turn this almost into a symphony. Not all is perfect, of course: A memory in black and white temporarily breaks the rhythm and is not devoid of cliché. Kenny will learn this, just as George has. A quiet, tender, beautiful film.
Even though „A Single Man“ is not flawless, it is a little miracle. Polished, stylish, thoroughly composed films like this, tend to be a little sterile, artificial, cold, yet this one breathes so much warmth, so much life, even in its despair, pain and grief and it does so in such an easy, almost effortless and never heavy-handed way. In the end, dead eayes join the living ones, yet the colour remains. Death after all is part of life and you can’t affirm life without welcoming death to it.